My mother was a goddess.
She had to be, after all, to raise a stubborn, willful child like me.
She was a force of nature. Like the wind. Like fire. Like water. Like earth.
She was so remarkable, that I have decided this year (as of this writing, it is 2018) to start this post about her and add to it each year, on the anniversary of the date she decided to leave us. Because she cannot be forgotten. She is one of the best things this world has ever produced.
So this post will get long and unwieldy after a while. I don’t really care. Read it if you want. Don’t read it if you don’t want. This is for me. Each year I’ll contribute part of what she gave me to share for the world. Here’s the first year.
2018: The 3 most prolific things my mother ever said to me
My mom had a lot of sayings. Some she got from her mother. Some she got from the Big Book (my mom had 25 years clean and sober when she died). Some she picked up from random people I’ll never know. My grandfather once called me the griot of the family (a griot is a West African storyteller, usually of family lineage). He used to tell me stories and I’d memorize them. Such is the case with the things my mother said to me. Your mother may have said some of these things to you. I’ll share what they were and what they meant to me.
- “You are the descendant of kings and queens and noble tribesman. Only God is greater than you.” I don’t talk much on this blog about the experience of growing up black in America. But it is a factor that my mother considered every day of our lives together. From having the “talk” with me (for those who don’t know, that’s the talk most black American parents have with their kids on how to behave if stopped by the police such that you come out of the encounter alive) to making sure I had proper beauty references, my mother wanted me to be proud of my heritage. I was born into a world that was still trying to grapple with the ugly truth of slavery, and didn’t quite know where black beauty fit into the picture. And there I was, this funny-looking, multi-racial, pudgy kid. But it was important to her for me to know that I have a culture. That I come from “good stock,” as she said. These were the first words I heard after I was born. She saw to it. They were also the first words my brother heard. And the first words each of my children heard. She believed the first words you hear in life are powerful, and she made sure to craft powerful words to put into all of us.
- “If nothing changes, nothing changes.” This one she got from my grandmother, who got it from who knows where. I’ve heard the saying in other places, but here’s what it means to me. You can’t expect change – good or bad – without change. You can’t just change one part of your life and expect that everything else is supposed to stay the same. That never happens. Ever. Ever! So she used to say that to me a lot. To remind me that if I want positive change, I have to embrace change. That has always been hard for me. But I remember this saying and it makes things easier.
- “Excuses are tools of incompetence. They build monuments of nothingness. Those who specialize in them seldom accomplish anything.” I had to recite this when I made excuses as a child. I made my kids recite this. It does two very important things. First, it makes you aware that you are making an excuse. Second, it makes you aware of the nature of an excuse and how it does nothing to benefit you. Throughout my life I’ve made some pretty not-so-great decisions. And as a result, I’ve limited my own choices in life. Instead of berating me, my mother made sure I never made excuses. If there was something I wanted to do, she’d tell me, “Find a way. It’s there.” And when I gave all the reasons why I couldn’t, she’d simply say, “Excuses…”
These and many more things my mother said stay in my heart. I am so grateful for them because they make me who I am today. I am a person who sets goals and achieves them. I am a person who seeks to exude the love she feels for everyone. I am a person who wants to be fair and just. I am a person who will tell you the truth, even if it is a hard truth. I am a person who does not accept accuses but does not see the point in self-bashing.
In short, I am my mother’s daughter.